A Technocracy is defined as a system in which people with a lot of knowledge about science or technology control a society. A technocratic state, or a state controlled by engineers and expertise, generally has experts secluded into unelected bureaucracies.
The origins of Technocracy have been the subject of some debate, but William Henry Smyth has been generally recognized as having invented the word "technocracy" in 1919 to describe as he put it: "the rule of the people made effective through the agency of their servants, the scientists and engineers". Smyth had Industrial Democracy in mind when he coined the term.
Thorstein Veblen is also regarded to be an early father of technocracy, when he called for a Soviet of Technicians in 1921. Other influence upon the formation of technocracy include Edward Bellamy and his book Looking Backward.
Autocrat of the New Age
Like the Technocracy movement that followed it, Smyth's ideals were inherently anti-capitalist, and he envisioned technocracy as a new kind of autocracy that would control society. Because of their skills and training, they would make the best decisions on behalf of society.
A second group of technocrats in the 1930s, led by Howard Scott and Marion King Hubbert, built what was at the time known as the Technocracy Movement. One of the big topics was the "price system", and replacing it with a unit that was more measurable, such as joules or ergs. Scott became the first Chief Engineer of the Alliance.
There is some debate as to what is the best way to define technocracy or a technocrat. Duncan McDonnell and Marco Valbruzzi, in examining European technocratic politicians, define a minister as a technocrat if "at the time of his/her appointment to government, he/she: has never held public office under the banner of a political party; is not a formal member of any party; and is said to possess recognized non-party political expertise which is directly relevant to the role occupied in government."
Similarly, the book Philip Dru: Administrator was written by President Woodrow Wilson's advisor Colonel House, and has a very strong technocratic construct with its propensity to describe the important role of expertise, bureaucracies, and quick decision.
Alexander Bogdanov, a Russian Socialist and engineer, is considered another early advocate of technocracy. Bogdanov called his theory Tektology in a book titled Tektology: Universal Organization Science.
Elected and Unelected
As a political term, Technocracy tends to be a bit elastic, meaning that the definition of both the word and the application(s) have shifted over time.
Prime Ministers Mario Monti and Lucas Papademos have both been considered technocrats.
More often than not, technocrats exercise influence from unelected boards and bureaus, as is often seen both in the European Union and in the United States from agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
Technocracy and Socialism
Daniel Bell, an influential sociologist, made a direct comparison between technocracy and early socialist theorists, particularly that of Henri de Saint-Simon. He wrote that "St. Simon's vision of industrial society, a vision of pure technocracy, was a system of planning and rational order in which society would specify its needs and organize the factors of production to achieve them." Bell concluded that the "administration of things" is the "hallmark of technocracy". G. D. H. Cole agrees with Bell, that Saint-Simon "anticipated modern notions of technocracy in his insistence on the master-function of the industrial experts and organizers".
|“||Socialists have been saying pretty much the same thing for the past two generations. But then, nobody pays much attention to us Socialists. This time, however, it is the leading experts of the engineering profession who are speaking - the sort of people the American public looks up to.||”|
Stuart Chase, an early member of the Technical Alliance, was also an ardent socialist. Alexander Bogdanov, who advocated a system called Tektology which bears a marked resemblance to technocracy, was a socialist as well.
Redistribution of Ergs
Under the system proposed by technocrats such as Scott and M. King Hubbard, the "price system" would be replaced by what they viewed as a more "rational" approach: the use of an energy unit. Technocrats viewed man power as a stable, quantifiable energy unit that would be less prone to fluctuation than a commodities-based dollar. In addition, they believed that a "high tax" system with government giving everybody an allowance of 20,000 x-ergs would guarantee series of government services such as water, schooling, and protection.
In his book Man Hours, Hubbard explains how perfect their idea of redistribution is:
Our distribution then becomes foolproof and incredibly simple. We keep our records of the physical costs of production in terms of the amount of extraneous energy degraded. We set industrial production arbitrarily at a rate equal to the saturation of the physical capacity of our public to consume. We distribute purchasing power in the form of energy certificates to the public, the amount issued to each being equivalent to his pro rata share of the energy-cost of the consumer goods and services to be produced during the balanced-load period for which the certificates are issued.
He goes on to explain the simplicity of the government keeping track of every aspect of your life, in order to make the whole system work. Man will no longer be paid according to his so-called "value", a fallacious premise, and instead the equal pro rata division of his highly quantifiable energy use/yield. Everybody will get exactly the same.
Meritocracy or Authoritarianism
Some advocates of technocracy uphold the system as a meritocracy. For elected officials, this can hold true as the voting populace would have actively made that choice and presumably a candidate's engineering or other specialization will be discussed in open debate.
But for unelected bureaucrats of a technocratic nature, meritocracy itself is undermined, and any technocratic merit will be superseded by the quagmire that the citizens are being arbitrarily dictated to. This has led critics to point out that technocracy is undemocratic.
The Venus Project, an organization founded in 1995 by Jacque Fresco, is based in part on the idea of a "resource based economy" and bears a number of similarities to many of the earlier technocratic ideals of Technocracy Inc.
The Zeitgeist Movement, founded in 2008 by Peter Joseph in part to support the Venus Project, mirrored the Technocracy Inc. of the early 1930s. Venus and Zeitgeist eventually split, in 2011.
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- [Smyth, Technocracy, Human Instincts in Reconstruction], "The signs of the times portend the dethroning of decadent acquisitive capitalism and the crowning of productive skill - Autocrat of the new Age - Artizanism."
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- Technocracy, by William Henry Smyth - Audiobook at LibriVox